Thursday, January 3, 2013

British Columbia, Canada reversed itself on mandatory flu shots this season/ Globe and Mail

Canada's first mandatory flu shot policy, announced in August 2012 for all healthcare workers, was reversed in early December, following an uproar by nurses and other health workers.
The nurses’ union, the HSA and the Hospital Employees’ Union, together representing more than 100,000 health-care workers, objected to their members being forced to have a flu shot, or wear a mask, while at work. “Nurses felt it was a real violation of their right to direct their own health care, that it was questioning their own critical judgment.”
BC Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall created the policy, yet admitted he did not know how many people died from flu.  According to the Vancouver Sun,
When asked how many patients die each year because they pick up viruses like the flu, Kendall said he didn't know because the information is not routinely collected.
Yet Kendall had earlier claimed, "Influenza causes more deaths annually than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined..."   Duh...

It is unfortunate that he and so many other policymakers seem to get their information from power points, likely authored by industry, which provide them pithy statements for the media.  But when challenged, they lack basic information on the subject in question.

Finally, Kendall was overruled by his bosses:
The decision to hold off disciplining health-care workers who refuse to get a flu shot or wear a mask was made without consulting the province’s chief public health officer, who announced the landmark policy in the first place.
Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall said he learned of the softened approach only after it was approved late last week by a group consisting of deputy health minister Graham Whitmarsh and CEOs of the province’s regional health authorities...
But the new policy produced an uproar among unionized health-care workers. Their unions filed grievances against the mandatory nature of the decree, arguing that immunization was an individual decision and evidence on the benefits of flu shots was weak... 
Already, likely because of the earlier threat of discipline, flu shot rates among health-care workers are at record levels this year. At Fraser Health, more than 70 per cent of staff have now been immunized, nearly twice the level of previous years.
Threaten someone with the loss of their job, and they may get the shot.  However, the fact that only 35% of healthcare workers have been vaccinated, when they have a bird's eye view of the effects of the vaccine and the impact of flu on patients, suggests the vaccine benefit does not impress those with the greatest personal experience.  (Per CDC, 37% overall get vaccinated in the US.)

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